Emergency group to meet on weather

Government’s inter-agency group will co-ordinate response to storm damage

Waves crash into Lahinch Promenade in Co Clare this morning. Photograph: Cliodhna Fawl/Lahinch Surf Shop

Waves crash into Lahinch Promenade in Co Clare this morning. Photograph: Cliodhna Fawl/Lahinch Surf Shop

Mon, Jan 6, 2014, 18:59

The Government’s inter-agency, emergency response group will meet tomorrow to coordinate responses to the storms which have caused severe damage the west and south coasts.

The National Coordinating Group on Severe Weather which streamlined reaction to severe flooding in 2009, will oversee plans from the Office of Public Works, the departments of Transport, Environment and Health as well as local authorities and the HSE, as they address damage caused by the tidal surges and high winds of the last week.

The move is in advance of any indication from the insurance industry as to the probable total cost of the storms which saw homes and businesses flooded, cars washed into the sea and coastal defences damaged.

Insurance Ireland, the representative body for insurance companies, said it is too early to estimate the cost of the repairs. It said an assessment of claims would be made in about three weeks time.

However some local authorities including those in Galway have already appealed to the OPW for money to repair flood defences.

The cost of for the last four major floods ranged from €54million in June 2012 to €244m in November 2009, Insurance Ireland said. Anecdotal estimates claim the cost of the recent storms - which Met Éireann has warned have not fully abated - is likely to be at the higher end of that scale.

Minister for State at the Office of Public Works Brian Hayes said the Cabinet would get a full assessment of the damage when the storms had fully abated and the cost estimates were in from local authorities and others. But he said “it is inevitable in my view that additional funds will have to be made available, given the scale of the damage”.

Mr Hayes said a request for assistance with the cost of repairs to flood defences in Galway would be processed by the end of this month. Mr Hayes said there is already “a significant fund of €45 million available”.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said the full costs of the damage caused to roads and footpaths in coastal areas was not yet established. But he said the department will shortly be making an allocation of €332 million to local authorities for regional and local road maintenance and improvement, and restrictions on where this money may be spent are being relaxed.

While there has been severe damage to coast roads, holiday parks and promenades in the south and west much damage was also caused to private property.

In Cleggan Co Galway, four of six cars which had been parked on the pier were recovered from the sea. The locations of the final two remain uncertain. On nearby Inishbofin Island a lighthouse at Gun Rock was swept away by a sea surge, as were two cars which had been parked on the pier.

In Lahinch, Co Clare is has been estimated that it will cost in excess of € 1million to repair the promenade. Dozens of mobile homes and cars were engulfed in water when the sea surged some 500metres inland, ripping up a nearby road and bending signs.

Met Éireann chief forecaster Gerald Fleming said high winds experienced in recent days were not unusual for this time of year, but what caused damage was the coincidental timing of peak spring tides and peak winds which caused the sea surges and waves in coastal areas.

Met Éireann also pointed out that tonight is the 175th anniversary of “the big wind”, a hurricane which struck Ireland on January 6th and 7th 1839, causing severe damage and several hundred deaths.

Contemporary reports suggested 20 to 25 percent of houses in north Dublin were damaged while some 42 ships were wrecked.

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